The requirements for Florida Governor require a 7-year residency. By fall I will be a 16-year resident of Florida. I've had a unique history during my time here, as I've witnessed the side effects of unaffordable property values, the loss of options resulting from overdevelopment, and the impact of the economic crisis make a story like mine no longer possible. I've seen up close and personal the ways that Miami is not the most welcoming place for younger people.
- Self-employed business owner of 11 years: nu design element, llc (2007-present)
- 3-year Miami-Dade Green Party officer, Co-chair, Secretary (2014-2016, 2017-2018)
- Steering Committee member, Miami Climate Alliance (2017-2019)
- Political Advocacy Coordinator, ReThink Energy South Florida (2018-present)
- Founding member of Emerge Miami (2005-present)
- Appearance in healthcare documentary 'Sicko' 01:22:31 (2007)
- Lead Co-organizer of annual March Against Monsanto Miami for 5 consecutive years (2013-2017)
- Winner of Miami New Times' 'Best Film Festival of 2016' for producing Rise Up Miami: A 2-Day Radical Film Fest (2016)
- Media Coordinator for Occupy Miami working with local and national news networks (2011)
- Represented GMO Free Florida at Trans-Atlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) talks in Miami (2015)
- Staffer for Tim Canova for Congress (2016)
- Designed campaign materials for Culpepper for Okeechobee County Commission, a seat he still holds today (2010)
- Legal Assistant work at a criminal defense attorney's office (2010)
- President, Board of Directors, Medicine Signs Spiritual Center (2010-2011)
- Washington Post photo credit for Represent.us Miami Representation Day of Action calling for election transparency (2016)
- Mention in 'The Citizen Journalists' Photography Handbook' by Carlos Miller (2014)
I was born and raised in Rhode Island, the smallest state in the country. It's official nickname is "The Ocean State" and since then, as it happens, I've always lived not too far from the ocean. I'm proud that the state motto is "Hope".
Growing up in Rhode Island historic American culture, including Native American culture, was still in the air, with local memorials to battles like the Great Swamp Fight that had occurred many decades ago still standing and preserved. This was the environment that I grew up in and largely took for granted.
This connected Rhode Island strongly to a sense of place in the American tradition. Its founder, less known as a Founding Father, left a powerful legacy on the state. A Puritan who had experienced persecution, Roger Williams founded Rhode Island and Providence Plantations on strongly rooted notions of religious tolerance.
Much of the land development had occurred along sensible patterns that allowed for most homes to have large front and backyards that often led into dense woods, which made for good exploring.
My father was an emergency radio dispatcher, so I grew up nearby and spent a lot of time at the local fire station in North Scituate. After many years, he eventually needed to collect disability due to an injury on the job. The village I was raised in was so small that my friends and I walked to the elementary school located just a few blocks away. The U.S. Forest Service 'Smokey Bear' imagery around the household connected us to the importance of the state's forestry service, which had the serious task of monitoring any fires that might break out at any time due to a camper or careless hiker throwing out a cigarette.
Living so near to the wilderness made for a natural fit to join the local Boy Scout Troop, where I eventually achieved the rank of Second Class. One of the things that I appreciated from the experience was not only the principles of self-reliance learned from camping and toughing it out in the wilderness, but also the "leave no trace" philosophy, which likely laid the groundwork for my later realization about the numerous threats to the environment.
Thanks to my love of reading, I had the vocabulary skills that allowed me to represent my middle school at the Rhode Island State Spelling Bee of 1998.
I was also fortunate to have a vocational school adjacent to my high school. In my Sophomore year, I applied to the Drafting & Design program, where for two semesters I learned Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and how to draw wall sections and architectural renderings.
At that age my passion was computers which led to an interest in visual effects and computer animation, and a tour of Full Sail University in Orlando, Florida as I was nearing high school graduation.
I made the drive from Rhode Island to Orlando to attend Full Sail University in 2002. I appreciated the cultural mix, and so many smart young people pursuing degrees in the entertainment arts, which made it very easy to make friends and find a sense of place.
I enjoyed my time there, which often involved spending many long, lonely hours in dark rendering labs. I also liked how easy it was to learn about the other programs and by extension, broader aspects of the entertainment industry. The Computer Animation course that I was taking was so new, they hadn't yet offered Bachelor's degrees at the time I entered classes.
By 2003, even though the buildup to the Iraq War was heating up in the background, future career prospects in the industry still seemed to be a realistic path, and when the invasion began I still remember the news reports portraying the U.S. as being "welcomed with open arms". Without having a precedent of contemporary warfare and propaganda having grown up prior to the War on Terror, I didn't have any reason to question those messages or the stated motives for the invasion itself.
Meanwhile, I learned how to self-teach myself software from using the most advanced 3D animation software packages in the industry: Maya, Shake, After Effects, the Adobe Suite, etc. My degree in Computer Animation, however, would ultimately translate into a career taking on freelance graphic design and print projects.
I arrived in Miami shortly after graduating in 2004. I wasn't sure if it was the right city for me, especially whether or not it had the right industry located here, and I wasn't certain that I was going to stay.
In looking for initial work, I was quickly employed with several catering agencies, which allowed an early time-flexibility to my routine that would later become crucial. This was during a major real estate boom, so work was plentiful. I was fortunate enough along the way to meet some other young visual artists who were part of the Miami chapter of the International Arts Movement organization, and which met at Cafe Dimitrio in Coral Gables. This early networking ended up significantly shaping how I learned to navigate Miami, and these connections later led to jobs like working a booth for Frieze Art Magazine at the Miami Beach Convention Center during 2007's Art Basel. These experiences helped me start to feel like I was finally finding ways to connect to the city.
A couple of my first friends were artists who exhibited as the 'TM Sisters'. I attended an opening of theirs over a decade ago at the Art Institute of Miami that used to be in the heart of Lincoln Road. It's no longer there now, along with the artist's studios that used to be housed in a nearby building. It used to host free live figure drawing classes on Wednesdays that I would attend when possible. Interesting characters frequented the sessions, including a couple I once met who happened to be visiting from Iran. We had a lively conversation and the woman insisted I take the paintings she had made while she was here. The cultural interchange that institution afforded is no longer possible, lost to the inevitability of globalist gentrification and the dictates of Miami Beach's most valuable real estate. A landscape changing so fast it doesn't care what gets destroyed to make way for the new.
The friends that I've stuck with over the years turn out to be primarily teachers and lawyers. They've taught me important skills like how to critically read food labels to avoid toxic ingredients, we've organized numerous letter-writing campaigns, and have made a ton of art together.
When I was looking for a way to plug into the city and find a way to start meeting people, I discovered that Adbuster's magazine hosted local e-list servers. I eventually worked up the courage to send out a message seeing if anybody out there wanted to connect, which led to the first gathering of people including some pretty hardcore activists involved with Greenpeace and S.T.A.N.D. at the University of Miami, who would go on to found what would be named Emerge Miami.
In our early discussions, it was quickly understood that Miami was the location of some innovative projects, but strong institutional barriers oftentimes prevented other groups from finding out about them. It was decided that in order to confront the Miami activist community's "silo effect", in which good work was getting done, but awareness and collaboration was tightly confined, we declared ourselves to be a social-activist group, a hub that would allow space for easy collaboration and information sharing among groups, based structurally on the principles detailed in Steven Johnson's book "Emergence". So in essence, Emerge always defined itself from the beginning as an in-person social network.
By setting a broad mission statement, and basing itself on consistent weekly meetings and collaboratively shared agendas, we discovered that enormous complexity could be built. This simple formula has attracted many of Miami's top changemakers and launched some of the city's boldest projects, often without the end audience knowing about the Emerge connection. I'm proud of the group's many accomplishments over the years, particularly the ways it has interfaced with local government agencies and elected officials.
Miami is well-known for its legendary transit woes. After taking stock of Miami's temperate climate and flat landscape, one of the very first projects that Emerge chose to undertake in 2005 was to start up a monthly Emerge Second Saturday Critical Mass bike ride, which continues to this day under different leadership. The rides were popular, routinely drawing 40-50 or more participants. This attracted the attention of then-Mayor Manny Diaz, who attended our Critical Mass Second Anniversary at Peacock Park. That relationship led to one of our members having a position created for him in the city government as Miami's first bike coordinator, and eventual adoption of the city's first ever Bike Master Plan.
Other transit-oriented Emerge-sponsored initatives included the The Purple Line, a 2-day pop-up transit stop event held under a highway overpass north of downtown that aimed to both replicate the amenities expected at a modern transit facility, and also to call attention to the lack of meaningful action on transit from local officials. The city decided to run an official trolley there to serve the event, and later kept the route. It was through these projects that I learned about both the minutiae of the issues at hand, and also the experience of committee work.
Our request that the County find an engineering fix to an incredibly dangerous railroad crossing for bicyclists just north of downtown took literally years. We were repeatedly told "there is no engineering solution for this". In response, Emerge launched a website and campaign called "Project Ouch" that chronicled and documented the many injuries cyclists had received at the intersection. Eventually, thanks to continued persistence and the willingness to follow the bureaucracy from one agency, jurisdiction, and private company to the next, we ultimately prevailed.
Emerge also expanded its activism to include arts and entertainment wherever possible. This led to a project one of our members proposed called "Buskerfest", a showcase of local musicians who posted up at all the metromover stops downtown in a rotating lineup for one night of free live music. Once again, this event also included a civic engagement angle. Technically, the City of Miami classified busking as panhandling, making it illegal. By demonstrating how much livelier downtown felt with the addition of music, the event also aimed to make a broader policy shift.
This is how I learned about both activism and government. While our efforts were in a purely unofficial capacity, and Emerge has never formally incorporated in any way, the work we were doing was very similar to subcommittee work. We were creating a model of a people's legislature, a deliberative body of citizens working to create administrative and legal remedies, all taking place in one of the most diverse cities in the country. Government doesn't often know how to interface with the community from the top-down. Emerge acts as a permanent grassroots hub to help facilitate that dialogue.
Over the years, we've organized and co-organized hundreds of events, including over 100 monthly bike rides. Many of these events involved interfacing with city officials and police with regards to lane closures and escorts. Today, if you do a search for Miami Activism or Activism Miami on Google, Emerge Miami is the top result.
In 2006 I was introduced by one of my activist friends to the founder of the Independent Media Center (IMC) of Miami, the alternative global news network that grew out of the Seattle Anti-Globalization Protests of 1999. I moved into and lived and worked out of that office for over a year from 2006-2007. It was a tiny office, but I felt connected to the world, in a global city, with low overhead. Many musicians also lived in that building with me, some of whom eventually became my clients.
It was there that I learned more about anti-war movements in the past and present. I recall the first time I saw the horrifying images coming out of Iraq while at the IMC. Shortly thereafter I attended a talk hosted by Iraq War resisters including Camilo Mejia. As I sat in the audience upstairs at Tap Tap restaurant on Miami Beach, the commercialized nature of modern warfare gradually became clearer. I learned how the U.S. mission in Iraq included soldiers guarding the safe passage of Halliburton ships, while the CEO of that private company was the sitting Vice President. Camilo was later smeared as a "coward" by the Miami New Times, yet went on to become one of the more prolific activists in the city, helming a social justice group and publishing a book about his wartime experiences. This is all probably where my worldview began to shift, when I started thinking about the profound forces that were behind these man-made tragedies.
Also in 2006, a group of community and student leaders from FIU along with homeless advocates came together under the banner Take Back The Land and set up Umoja Village (Swahili for "Unity Village"), an improvised shantytown encampment on an abandoned patch of land at the corner of 62nd. St. and NW 17th Ave. in Liberty City. This was one of the first true radical political acts I had witnessed in Miami, because the site itself became a political issue in the way that it starkly drew attention to the plight of the homeless situation, challenging the landmark 1996 homeless rights' agreement The Pottinger Settlement, which embarrassed city officials and earned unwanted attention from the police. The site was eventually burned to the ground in a fire which Back To The Land founder Max Remeau described as having taken place under "suspicious circumstances." The site was later fenced off with barbed wire and public access was prevented.
My activism continued to broaden as I was introduced to vegetarianism and began to learn about the many problems of our food production industries. Through the same activist scene, I was introduced to a local personality and activist, Mark Buckley, who rescued a rooster that was running loose on Miami Beach, and would later become a renowned animal-rights activist celebrity as Mr. Clucky, gracing the cover of an edition of the Miami New Times and going on to make international news as a regular fixture on Lincoln Road. I assisted Mark in setting up and managing the social media accounts for Mr. Clucky, which was used as a platform to promote cruelty-free lifestyles.
I learned more about not only speaking at public hearings, but also how gubernatorial appointees are beholden to the Governor rather than their constituents, during a South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) hearing on continued budget cuts in the name of fiscal conservatism at the expense of the environment, rather than just allowing the rates to stay the same. I was shocked to watch speaker after speaker address the board members (almost all Rick Scott appointees) in near-unanimous support to maintain the spending, yet were ultimately ignored. I was so frustrated that I took to social media and called the decision "An affront to democracy."
My friend Flash has organized the Medical Marijuana Benefit Concert for the past 20 years, which I've been attending since I've been in Miami. In more recent years, I've even spoken there a couple times. I credit his tireless advocacy with helping to destigmatize and move the needle on legalization issues long before they became mainstream. The iconic venue where it was held for most of its existence, Tobacco Road, has itself succumbed to economic pressures and with it, another piece of Miami's authentic soul.
It's become widely known and understood the way the media monopoly in the United States distorts and manipulates accurate information. The airwaves lack in authentic voices due to relentless media consolidation that accelerated with the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 under President Bill Clinton. In 2010, some activist friends of mine attempted to fill the gap with a show broadcast out of a local AM radio station in Overtown called Let's Talk About It Weekly Radio Program, featuring real people talking about real issues. I was a longtime fan and listener when the opportunity presented itself to help produce a few shows with them on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the first March Against Monsanto, both times even booking prominent guest speakers including Margaret Flowers. The March Against Monsanto episode would go on to become the most widely shared podcast release in the show's history.
Many people remember exactly where they were during certain highly charged historic moments. For me, one of the ones that isn't often commemorated is November 28, 2010. The steady release of classified U.S. State Department cables and ensuing media coverage of what was dubbed Cablegate, was one of the most gripping moments of investigative journalism that I could remember witnessing in my life up until that point.
When Glenn Greenwald released the story about the whistleblower responsible for leaking the documents, then-Bradley Manning, I was one of the first few hundred people to affix the "Free Bradley" graphic to my Twitter account profile, clearly identifying Manning as a U.S. political prisoner, and furiously Tweeting news about the story.
Spending days and nights reading through the SECRET and NOFORN documents, and researching new leads the leaks opened up painted a dramatically different picture of world relations than the one I had come to take for granted. Here, the U.S. acts as a nameless, faceless, unaccountable aggressor violating its own treaties and covering up its own crimes and the criminal acts of its partner regimes with impunity. Here we see even more horrific incidents of torture and corporate malfeasance than have ever come anywhere near the headlines.
Because I felt that news publications, universities, and the general public had missed out on an opportunity to truly analyze and discuss the revelations contained in the cables, in December 2012 I organized an event called The Last 4 Years: Truth, Wikileaks, and Journalism in the Open Society, in which I displayed all of the shocking newspaper clippings I had saved along with cables and leaked documents that I printed out and highlighted parts of, all to reveal the dystopic police state spiraling out of control under a Democratic president.
The things that I read about in Cablegate will haunt me for the rest of my life. Because as they were caused by the American empire, they are part of my legacy as an American.
Roughly one year later, on Sept. 17, 2011, protesters set up camps and began an occupation near New York City's Wall Street district in protest of structural inequality and rampant ongoing financial crimes. Shortly thereafter, organizers began meeting in Miami, the second largest financial center in the country, to plan large-scale general assemblies that took place at the Torch of Friendship and MDC campus, and began looking into the possibility of establishing a sister site at downtown Miami's Government Center.
I was attracted to the cause because it finally felt like the outpouring of so many pent-up frustrations with the political system, in particular the bailouts that continued despite a change in presidential administrations. We worked to maintain a space that could allow the public to plug in and have relevant political conversations, but also one that was centrally located enough to organize ongoing actions that could maintain public interest and expand the scope of the protest.
As a media coordinator, I interfaced with the local news affiliates including ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News, and others, who came out to cover the occupation. We managed to get our stories into the Huffington Post through our contributors, and found allies in smaller publications like the Florida Independent. For one brief moment in time, a 24/7 youth-powered rebellion was underway downtown.
There was a moment toward the end of the days of the camp that was very emotional for me because I was putting so much effort into keeping things together so that we could continue to stand as a symbol and political statement. I looked around the camp one day, and I thought: They cut off our water, they cut off our food, and all around me I saw these bright, intelligent young people who had traveled from all over the country to be part of this, and the state is starving them out. The state has no compassion for their plight of debt slavery. The youth have been completely abandoned and left without leadership. It was a moment in the experience that brought me a profound and terrible sense of sadness for what the future must look like to them.
For us, the police state became up-close and personal the day of the eviction. For 3 months the camp stood firm. It was one of the longest-running occupations of any major city in the country, and that miraculously had an indefinite permit. RT was the only major media outlet to capture the images of the eviction. Award-winning photojournalist and founder of Photography Is Not A Crime, Carlos Miller, was violently arrested. Occupy Miami's days of holding physical space had come to an end.
After that, I kept in close touch with many of the people I met there, considering them by that point friends and extended family. The issues that I found most compelling in the later years were the stopping of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, and acting as one of the local organizers of the annual March Against Monsanto that began shortly thereafter.
Over the next 4 years I devoted all of my resources to the GMO awareness and food production issues which I could tell were resonating the most with the public by the amount of creativity attendees were putting into their signs and costumes.
I spoke at the TTIP negotiations on behalf of GMO Free Florida when they arrived in Miami. Addressing a room full of agriculture industry experts and lobbyists, I spoke about the global food crisis and domination of production by Monsanto. I expected my arguments to be ripped apart in the Q&A at the end. Instead I was met with stunned silence. There were no questions. I left the podium and one journalist with a news outlet from Spain came up to interview me afterwards.
The nationwide campaign for food labeling which we were promoting alongside our organizing would go on to win landmark victories in court, despite the influence of Monsanto appointees like Michael Taylor to the FDA and millions of lobbying dollars.
On the 10th Anniversary of the legendary Free-Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) summit protests in Miami, I organized a gathering of the top local activists to plan a rally and march from Government Center to the Torch of Friendship as part of the local movement in opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) begun on the anniversary of Occupy, and which would go on to carry out further protests and pass local resolutions against the agreement. Like its predecessor, this dangerous rigged deal labeled a "corporate coup d'etat", would eventually fail.
In July, 2013, in the wake of the killing of Trayvon Martin and subsequent outcry, a group calling itself the Dream Defenders began a 31-day sit-in at the Florida State Capitol to demand a repeal of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" legislation, an end to racial profiling, police violence, and the notorious "school-to-prison pipeline". Almost incredibly, under the light of public scrutiny, the occupation was allowed to continue, and daily make headlines that struck at the heart of Florida's historic legacy of racial injustice.
As a self-employed graphic designer and project manager, I have frequently lent my skillset to various causes over the years, and have learned more about civics and the legislative process through ballot petition amendments, including legalizing medical marijuana and restoring felons' access to voting rights.
As I see that the world becomes more technologically-oriented, certain skillsets have become fundamental to the functioning of any large-scale organization. Miami has consistently been ranked one of the top cities in the country for entrepreneurship, but equally consistent have been the rates at which those startups end up quickly failing. Over time I have seen the necessity for establishing strong and clear rulesets so that economic development can be productive and sustainable over the long-term.
Probably the project where I saw the full potential of organizing using freely available and open-source tools was when it was observed that the owners of the Miami Heat Arena were not honoring their contractual agreement to convert the green space on the bay side of the arena into a publicly accessible park, as promised and as presented in 3D-renderings presented to the County in 1996. We were lucky enough to get a local Channel 10 reporter to pick up our cause and even capture late night footage of the locks on the gate, which had apparently been put up without a permit.
Once the local County Commissioners were on camera and put in the hot seat, that's when things finally started to move. The campaign, organized in conjunction with the launch of Engage Miami, culminated in a giant park-opening ceremony that included vendors, activities, and community chalking with positive messages that demonstrated the full potential and need for more green spaces in Miami.
In 2014, I was nominated for Co-chair of Miami-Dade Green Party, which I accepted, as I had been working at times alongside the local chapter since shortly after I had arrived in 2005. For me, third-party candidates went hand-in-hand with my activism, and I was proud to host a live screening of Jill Stein at the 2012 Third Party Presidential Debates at the El Barrio Cultural Center in Little Havana. That venue, like most of the other funky venues in Miami, is defunct now.
- Ralph Nader - On November 10, 2007 at the Miami Book Fair on tour speaking about his book The Seventeen Traditions.
- Jill Stein - On her presidential campaign tours in 2012, 2015, 2016.
- Chris Hedges - At the Miami Book Fair, one of my favorite cultural activities, in 2015.
- Jaques Fresco - Attended his 100th Birthday Celebration at Harborside Event Center in Fort Myers, Florida on March 12, 2016.
- Abby Martin - Guest Speaker at Jaques Fresco's 100th Birthday Celebration.
- Wenonah Hauter - While on tour at Books & Books Coral Gables promoting her book 'Frackopoly'.
- Reverend Billy Tallen - Chauffeur, local contact, guest speaker at March Against Monsanto 2017.
- Valerie Plame and Joseph Wilson - Saw them speak in Coconut Grove on their 2010 whistleblowing tour.
- Michael Moore - While filming his movie "Sicko".
- Carlos Miller - Renowned photojournalist, founder of Photography Is Not A Crime.
- Jeremy Scahill - At O Cinema while on tour promoting his film Dirty Wars.
- Bryant Culpepper - Okeechobee County Commissioner, designed the printed materials for his winning 2010 campaign.
- George Sheldon - Former Attorney General at Florida Blue Gala.
- Nan Rich - 2014 Florida Democratic candidate for Florida Governor, met her on tour at 4 campaign events.
- Alex Sink - Former 2010 Candidate for Florida Governor, met her when I won her BBQ contest that included a 1-on-1 lunch.
- Cara Jennings - Lake Worth City Council Member of "Rick Scott, You're An Asshole!" fame.
Following the People's Climate March of 2014, the organizers put out a call-to-action for local cities to organize their own the following year. I was part of the initial organizing committee and designed the branding for the 2015 Miami People's Climate March. The local committee consisted of a broad coalition of long-term organizers with deep ties to the community. The Miami march would be credited as having been the largest in the country that day, going on to launch the 80-member org Miami Climate Alliance, of which I have been a Steering Committee member ever since.
So much of Florida's current environmental movements and organizations date back to the response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in the gulf that led to the very first Hands Across The Sand statewide day of action, where thousands around the state gathered and held hands along the beachfront to declare a moratorium on any further offshore oil drilling and exploration.
The next major environmental fight I became involved in was working towards a statewide fracking ban, which began as an emergency mobilization at Miami State Senator's offices demanding that they change their votes on regulations that would have opened the doors for fracking operations throughout the state including in the Everglades. This eventually culminated in a trip to the Capitol in Tallahassee sponsored by ReThink Energy Florida to attend Legislative Session and lobby in support of a statewide fracking ban and various other clean-energy initiatives. Once again, the forces of citizen mobilization were able to stop the regulations, and through the passage of over 90+ local ordinances, put enough pressure on legislators to the point that eventually even Republicans seemed to be leading on the issue.
On reflection, I realized that partly why it probably never occurred to me to run for Governor is because I was already too busy preparing to interact with that office in other capacities.
I don't think there's anything inherently "wrong" with choosing self-employment as a career path, rather than seeking traditional employment. Except when the economic environment makes it nearly impossible. I wouldn't be able to relive the same journey if I arrived again in Miami today. It's more expensive. Less open. The street on Miami Beach where I parked for long-term periods of time is now metered. I couldn't have lived so close to the amenities of the nearby library, and showers, and beach. It's much more patrolled than it was in those days when I could wake up on the beach and see the time on the Lincoln Road clock tower and start planning my day.
Over time, my career expanded from looking for printing clients to thinking about globalization's effect on local markets and the frontiers of trade rules, which is bittersweet for me in a way because I also feel blessed to have learned about these issues as well as how they led me to arrive at the realization about the enormous gap in our public education regarding many if not all aspects of the civic engagement process.
Probably the campaign that I'm most proud of working on was helping stop the development of a massive Walmart Supercenter in Midtown Miami, adjacent to the Wynwood Arts district. I helped contribute video content and attended and livestreamed several hearings on the issue at Miami City Hall. Walmart's proposed plans for the area were so massive they included removing trees and sidewalks to make way for loading docks capable of handling routine 18-wheel truck deliveries way out of proportion for the sites intended zoning use, and threatening to ruin the character of the neighborhood. As once bike-advocate ally and former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz went on to represent Walmart and lobby on behalf of the project as part of his law firm Lydecker Diaz, I had no choice but to soft-protest his decision by passing out flyers at an appearance he made that called out his involvement on the project.
The Wallflower Gallery, the funky and solitary downtown Miami arts venue that gave birth to Emerge Miami, and was avant-garde enough to host our experimental event nights as we were learning how to function, has been torn down and is just an empty parking lot now. Destroyed by the forces of foreign capital.
My friends Blair and Nando, founders of Art of Cultural Evolution Inc. and the Colony1 project, traveled extensively throughout the country in a vegetable oil powered bus, visiting key sustainable living facilities in order to learn about and bring the latest ideas in healthy living and farm-to-fork diets back to Miami. They eventually were able to secure a 50-year lease on the last green space in Wynwood. However, their lease was pulled in 2018 after 3 years due to difficulties securing the financing necessary to get construction of a building underway. Wealthy New York developers who own adjacent properties are eagerly eyeing that land and whether or not it can be saved remains uncertain.
I'll never forget what local Miccosukee activist Houston Cypress said about tribal life during an environmental panel discussion a few years ago: "Our way of life is dying." It haunted me. How was so drastic a pronouncement not any kind of a news item if they were living right in our backyard? Were they bellwethers of an environmental tragedy to come? I couldn't help but feel it was the kind of warning with even broader implications.
It wasn't in my org chart to brand and co-organize the March Against Monsanto every year since 2013, but I participated because no one else was going to, and it's not actually okay that there are toxic carcinogens on our food. I don't think about whether or not my background fits into what is supposed to look like a citizen advocate who is inspired to get involved. The food is not supposed to have poison on it. The studies that demonstrate the science are not supposed to be suppressed, and are not supposed to be obfuscated by misleading industry-funded studies.
Although, in all my years participating in the world of activism, I once came across a photo that left the deepest impression on me. It was of a meeting of representatives from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and Walmart when they agreed to raise farm worker pay and living conditions as part of their landmark Fair Food Agreement. In that photograph, I saw Florida's true potential. That where after every skirmish, and every battle, there is a place for even the most sharply divergent forces, interests, and people, to come to the table and eventually work out a negotiation.
Looking back, just by keeping my head down and working hard, I realize my career in activism spans the range of tasks from taking out the trash at the Occupy camp, to contracting and art directing motion graphics that were viewed millions of times at the end of television commercials for a major Congressional campaign. I have seen a large spectrum of civic engagement activities throughout that time that I wouldn't otherwise if I had only been focused on my professional career. To me and my thinking as a Project Manager, a project is a holistic endeavor, something that frequently involves rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty, as much as it does negotiating minutiae to ensure correct implementation.
I look at the State of Florida as a system, as a project, and in particular given the long-overdue need for Green New Deal policies of economic revitalization, as something critical to get right if our ongoing rapid development will continue to allow the state to be sustainable for its existing residents over the long-term, and maybe one day, even become a model.